Bluesky: Twitter alternative surges in popularity as celebrities join and people fight over invites

·2-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Bluesky, a Twitter alternative supported by one of its original founders, may be the world’s hottest and most controversial app.

The app was originally launched by then-Twitter chief executive and co-founder Jack Dorsey in 2019. It became separate from Twitter a couple of years later, and has stayed largely quiet over that time.

In recent months, however, it has become increasingly popular as a possible alternative to Twitter, and it looks and works very similar to that app. Like other apps such as Mastodon, it has seen more interest as Twitter users seek to leave that site because of its management by Elon Musk.

In recent days, Bluesky has become the most discussed of those alternatives, as celebrities from Chrissy Teigen to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have signed up to use it.

But not everyone is able to follow them. Bluesky is currently operating on a system of invitations: new users can bring a small number of people onto the site, once they have spent some time there, and so joining the service is exclusive.

That has helped boost its popularity, in a similar way to Clubhouse, which also launched on an invite-only beta that became a particularly hot ticket. Eventually, Twitter and other platforms copied those features and Clubhouse this week announced that it would be firing half of its staff.

Bluesky has also faced some controversy on the site itself. It does not have some central features that are available on Twitter – including the option to block another user – which has led to some fears that it could enable harassment.

Many users have nonetheless fled to the site, in part at protest at the way Mr Musk has been running Twitter. Recent controversies have included the removal of the site’s verification process, and its substitution with blue ticks, which critics argue have empowered spammers and trolls who can pay for extra visibility for their posts.

Bluesky remains at an early stage of its development, with an Android app only launching in recent days. It also uses different foundational technology from Twitter, instead relying on a decentralised architecture of the kind that also underpins other services such as Mastodon.

Despite having a role in its founding, Jack Dorsey appears to be more interested in using Nostr, another platform that aims to offer an alternative to Twitter. Mr Dorsey has also financial supported that platform, too.